University Human Resources is launching a supervisor training program to improve work environments and the employee experience
Thursday, January 23, 2020

University Human Resources (UHR) has launched the Supervisor Training@Iowa project, which requires about 3,000 supervisors across the University of Iowa to complete specially designed training by the end of 2020. The project results from campus feedback and recommendations from Iowa’s employment practices review, which was completed this month. The goal of the training is to create a comprehensive approach to supervisor development on campus, says Cheryl Reardon, chief human resources officer and associate vice president.

“This training establishes a commonly shared knowledge of best practices, strengthens skills, and promotes consistent and equitable employment practices for everyone’s benefit,” says Reardon. “From the hospital to the lab to the classroom and the stadium, supervisors interact with and affect the lives of every faculty and staff member, student, health care provider, and patient on this campus. Better equipping our supervisors to address workplace challenges and meet goals will benefit every aspect of what we do.”

In fall 2019, more than 200 faculty and staff from across campus collaborated to develop and pilot the Supervisor Training@Iowa curriculum, which involves an overview presentation on the importance of supervisors and three training courses.

Reardon says the training emphasizes best-practices in recruitment; employee engagement; coaching; and the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The Supervisor Training@Iowa training laid out the expectations of what I need to know as a supervisor at the University of Iowa,” says Kevin Zihlman, assistant athletics director of compliance in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Zihlman participated in a pilot of the training in fall 2019.

“I appreciated the reinforcement of policies and procedures that I had already been aware of,” says Zihlman, “along with being made aware of proper supervisor practices I wasn’t tracking. We should always be striving to make the workplace not only a wonderful environment for our students and patients, but an environment where UI employees have positive feelings about establishing and maintaining their careers.”

The training is designed to be flexible in delivery. The overview presentation and three training courses each require about 1.5 hours to complete, and supervisors will be able to take the training online and in person with a live facilitator. Supervisors must complete the overview presentation but have the option to test out of the courses. In-person training is scheduled so participants can complete the training over time, in one week, or even one afternoon. The training also is an approved activity for some continuing-education credit programs.

“It’s up to us to maintain excellence and continuously work toward improvement,” says UI President Bruce Harreld. “As the number of college-aged students declines over the next 10 years, competition between universities for students, faculty, and staff will grow fiercer. As we work hard to draw and support the best students, let’s not forget to improve upon the qualities that draw and retain the best staff and faculty as well.”

The Supervisor Training@Iowa project resulted in part from recommendations from Iowa’s employment practices review, which was conducted by Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. and ended this month. Fredrikson & Byron made several recommendations for clarifying and enhancing UI policies as well as making them more effective. This includes additional training for employees.

Reardon says the review’s recommendations dovetail with requests from Staff Council and Faculty Senate, as well as feedback from the Working@Iowa and campus climate surveys. The Supervisor Training@Iowa curriculum was designed to address many of these concerns.

In addition, Reardon says that UHR will continue to work on developing leadership skills because of their important role in the university’s strategic plan. Critical to the UI’s long-term strategic goals are a diverse workforce, leadership excellence, an exceptional work experience for employees, and innovation in HR practices. Supervisor support is foundational to achieving these goals, and once this phase of Supervisor Training@Iowa is complete, UHR will consider developing further enhancements to leadership and supervisorial training.

Supervisors who are required to take the training will be notified via email and will receive reminders. Current supervisors will be required to complete the training by Dec. 31, 2020, and new supervisors will complete the training within a year of their hiring date.